Unusual Virus Afflicting North American Fish with “Blotchy Bass Syndrome”

WALL LAKE TOWNSHIP, S.D. (Dakota News Now) – Greg Cummings, a retired motorcycle racer who often enjoys fishing excursions accompanied by his faithful dog, Buzz, has become increasingly concerned about the state of the waters they frequent. Like many anglers, Cummings has noticed the effects of pollution resulting from agriculture and industry, and he believes that the consequences of this negligence may soon become evident.

However, a new issue has recently emerged that adds to the worries of fishermen. Researchers nationwide are investigating a peculiar phenomenon affecting North American fish. Over the past decade, reports of fish with hyperpigmentation, caused by a viral infection, have been steadily increasing. Scientists have dubbed this condition “Blotchy Bass Syndrome” and are seeking assistance from anglers to gain a better understanding of the issue. South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks, in collaboration with the Eastern Ecological Science Center, are spreading awareness about this growing trend, particularly among bass species, characterized by black spots appearing on their scales. Fishermen are being encouraged to contribute to the research by sharing photographs they likely already capture, and this collaborative effort is being referred to as the “Blotchy Bass Bonanza.”

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The virus does not pose any threat to humans or pets, and the affected fish can still be handled and consumed safely if proper measures are taken.

“I wouldn’t say there’s cause for concern,” remarked Iwanowicz. “While fishermen need not worry, we have yet to ascertain how the virus spreads. However, we would like to caution anglers to avoid unintentionally spreading the virus. Although the method of transmission remains unknown, awareness of the scientific findings is crucial.”

Nevertheless, researchers rely on anglers to track the virus, identify its origins, and comprehend its impact on fish populations.

It is important to note that reporting catches, even of non-blotchy fish, is valuable to researchers.

“Without records of non-affected fish, we cannot accurately estimate the prevalence,” explained Biological Science Technician Clay Raines. “For a long time, we wondered if we were observing the ‘Volkswagen Beetle effect’—if you’re actively searching for them, they appear everywhere. We need people to report instances where they actively look for the syndrome and don’t find any affected fish as well.”

The reporting process involves documenting each fishing trip using the mobile app called “Angler’s Atlas MyCatch.” Anglers can initiate a trip by selecting the “start trip” option when they arrive at their fishing location. Throughout the trip, they can capture pictures of each catch, preferably alongside a measuring board. Each recorded trip with accompanying photos offers an entry into a drawing for a $100 gift card. For dedicated fishermen, downloading the Angler’s Atlas MyCatch app is highly recommended, as it can lead to significant rewards both on the lake and potentially in their wallets.

Everyone is playing their part in proactively addressing this research.

“Just like with the Asian carp, addressing the issue early on is crucial to prevent further consequences,” emphasized Cummings.

“This presents an opportunity to engage citizen scientists in tracking real-time progress or, at the very least, establishing a data time capsule for future endeavors,” added Raines.

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